Written by Fumo Verde
In the final days of the Roman Empire the last of Julius Caesar’s bloodline is fleeing for his life to the Empire’s northern-most stronghold in hopes of securing the alliance of a legion to support the boy Emperor. Director Lefler takes these ending moments of antiquity and weaves a tale into the next mark on the timeline of this human race, the Dark Ages. The fall of Flavius Romulus Augustus Caesar was considered the end of the Western Roman Empire and after his capture by Odoacer, the Germanic-Goth leader, the boy Caesar was never mentioned in history again. This DVD is fantasy mixed with history, or as I call it “histasy,” and Lefler stretches it into the story of King Arthur.
Colin Firth plays Aurelius the Legion Commander who has come back to Rome to serve as the Emperor’s special guard. He is loyal to Flavius, Rome, and his Eagle (the Legion Standard). While not really happy with this duty, he understands that Rome’s enemies are at the gates and are ready to over take the city and kill off the Emperor. With help from his most trusted soldiers and a secret weapon from Constantinople, Mira (Aishwarya Rai) a beautiful but deadly fighter. As Aurelius prepares to protect the young leader, the Goths attack and take the boy prisoner.
Flavius has luck on his side in Ambrosinus (Ben Kingsley), who is the boy’s teacher and mentor, and seems to be kind of a mystic. Ambrosinus is taken with Flavius to an old Roman island fort. Once imprisoned on this remote island Ambrosinus realizes their jailhouse actually holds a magic sword made for Julius Caesar back in the day. The sword has great power and has a prophecy that anyone who controls it rules the world. Grabbing the sword and escaping with the help of Aurelius and Mira, the small band make their way to Britain in the hope that the 9th Legion will still hold their loyalty to Flavius.
There are things I liked about this film and things I didn’t. Likeable was Firth who made his role believable in subtle ways, such as being faced with overwhelming odds and giving a look of “you’ve got to be kidding me” rather than the standard Hollywood Hero’s “I like the odds” look. The fight scenes moved too fast for any complexity like in 300 and they weren’t unbelievable. Kingsley’s character at one point looks as if he is throwing fireballs at the enemy, when in reality catapults are launching them. A little comedy comes through here. This movie gave a sense of reality to the story with little things like this. I also fell in love with the beauty and acting of Aishwarya Rai who I hope to see a lot more of.
Some of the things I didn’t like were how the Goths were played. When someone says “Barbarian,” how come Hollywood comes up these dirty, hairy, jacked-up hillbillies who can only speak at decibel 15? Just because someone is barbaric doesn’t mean that they always have to be dirty and can’t talk without popping a few blood vessels in the forehead region.
The last discrepancy I have with the film is the underlying theme, the sword. This sword of power was forged in Britain for Gaius Julius Caesar back when he invaded in 55-54 B.C. Problem is two things: number one, Caesar was there from August to September, enough time to forge a sword, but Caesar was too busy trying to survive. With poor weather holding back his logistical support back on the Normandy beaches and the Britons attacking him. I seriously doubt he would have wasted manpower to make a sword, which brings me to number two. The sword is too long. Every Roman solider has a short sword. It goes with their tactics, and during Caesar’s rise the short sword was a staple for the Roman Legions. The sword ends up in the hands of a future king of Britain and gains the name “Excalibur.” Also, the last Legion stationed at Hadrian’s Wall was 6th Vitrix, the 9th was in York for a time but seemed to have been disbanded after the campaign was over.
The extras weren’t anything special or out of the ordinary. The commentary is always cool to listen too for those interested in making movies. The deleted scenes didn’t add to the movie, so in or out, we didn’t miss them. This movie has its moments but the story is weak and you keep thinking something big is going to happen but never does. It has a semi-typical Hollywood ending but what doesn’t nowadays. If you’re home on a rainy day and this comes on HBO and you have laundry to do, with a fatty and the right munchies this will entertain you for a while.